Thursday, December 31, 2009

A bunch of stuff that isn't as interesting as whatever you are doing NYE.

I don't want to write you a run-down of the books I've read or how well I did in the Year of Dangeresque reading. Mostly because over the course of reading a lot of things I considered dangerous I managed to throw myself into depression. I will say I did read a lot of great stuff this year (Demon's Lexicon and The Sharing Knife being just two standouts), and I read a lot of stuff that I couldn't finish. So I'll leave out all the end of the year round up stuff and move on to other obligatory NYE post: "goals for next year."

So these are the things I think are worth doing in the Twenty-Ten:

  • Working hard on revision and with the critiques for my critique groups.

  • Write something everyday. Don't watch all the episodes in a Bones marathon instead, I've probably seen them all even if I don't remember. Reading is good and necessary but don't forget about the writing too. That includes this blog. 1 post a week isn't asking too much now is it?

  • Remember the positive, in my critiques and in my life and groups. So many of us (Librarians) get down and out when the people we are trying to help are rude or snappish or don't understand that we have policies and procedures in place and can't just "x,y,z" for them. Some much of our critiquing energy is taken up with what we think the other writers are doing wrong (which is of course constructive, but also depressing.) So more positivity, yes. Hopefully this will cut down on some of the frustrations that any customer-service type job will have.

  • I'm pretty good at guessing what patrons are getting at when they ask a question that is not really what they want to know. People don't like to come out and say what it is that they need or want and reference is often a cat and mouse game. Just because I'm "pretty good" at guessing what people mean when they ask a question doesn't mean that I should make assumptions that I know what they want. Make sure I take I know which thing the patron means before I try to answer their question.

  • Take more pictures.

  • Generally and overall, be healthier.

2009 has been one of the best years of my life. As I write this, my fiance is making dinner before he goes into work tonight. Unfortunately, he won't be here at midnight, and I'll be making pouring myself some sparkling grape juice and kissing the cats to ring in the new year. I don't really mind because I'll be sending out 2009 in the same way I've lived most of it: calmly and with a book in hand.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


My soul was weary and downtrodden. The books I'd been reading, and the ugliness of the world, and the lack of sunlight (dark at 4pm? REALLY WORLD?) all got to me. I was depressed and even my old standby pick-me-up authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Terry Pratchett, weren't quite boosting my mood. Then I read this article by one of my favorite romance bloggers, Sarah Wendell (of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.) In the article she mentions a series called "The Sharing Knife" by Lois McMasters Bujold. My interest was piqued. New author! New Series! Fantastical Romance=New Genre for me. (I've had my fill of the paranormal stuff thank you very much.)

Lo and behold! All four books of the series were checked in and on the shelf in my Library. I ran and scooped them up and checked them all out. And then I opened "Beguilment" and all of the badness, the existential crisis, the depression melted away. I've since finished the whole series and want to spread the word of The Sharing Knife. These books are methodical and clear voiced, but still funny and fantastical. There are sexy bits, especially in book one when the main romantical characters are first getting together, but they made me laugh and smile, not cringe and quickly turn the page. The best part for me was the way the books dealt with a giant set of problems, tangled-up messy problems.The problems weren't solved by the end, but headway was made and the characters were realistically optomistic about the future.

I feel better now, and now you've been properly proselytized about The Sharing Knife.

Merry Festivus everyone.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A small rant about "Fire" by Kristen Cashore

As you all can see with your own eyes, I loved "Graceling." It was the perfect YA novel, especially for a girl, but really for anyone.

Fire, oh Fire, how you disappointed me. I'm fine with a book that mentions menstruation. I'm fine with menstruation as a plot device. I'm annoyed when it is used to facilitate giant swaths of necessary plot and is mentioned every other sentence or so. Unnecessary!Also, small detail, Please use different words than "monthly bleeding!" Because there are other words, but mostly just cut about 1/2 to 2/3 of the mentions out of the book and we'll be okay.

This brings me to my second point: This is not a YA novel. I don't care that Fire is seventeen to eighteen years old through the course of the novel. For instance, one of the main issues she grapples with is the decision of whether or not to have children and therefore pass on what is basically a hereditary condition that is guaranteed to be passed on if she has a child. Other issues include her becoming a stepmother-type character, and how to be ethical while still maneuvering to win what you believe is a just war. Oh, and finally a major problem addressed how to deal with the fact that you are just so beautiful that everyone either is so struck by your beauty they instantly love you or instantly hate you. Actually, for the most part that isn't such an invalid point about the values society places on beauty, especially female beauty, but she way over-emphasizes the point. Much like everything in this book is drawn out and rehashed a million ways.


The book literally ends with the main character crying to her lover about how she's not just another pretty face and she has all these crazy FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS. Which her current lover tells her he understands. Then makeouts. He's spent the entire book showing her how well he knows her and how little he cares about her outer beauty, but for some reason we needed this last chapter just to over-drive home the point again. AGRGH!


Do you see where I'm going here? Fire doesn't deal with issues teenagers deal with, she doesn't even deal with issues that MOST PEOPLE deal with, but those that do are typically older and in odd places of power. I just thought this book shouldn't have been marketed as YA despite the success of Graceling as YA novel. I might have liked it more if I'd picked it up in the adult fiction section with that framework functioning in my head.

Oh, but the one thing I will say is that I made it through the audiobook because the narrator Xanthe Elbrick is amazing and could have read me the phone book and I would be riveted for quite a long spell.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I'm writing a novel in a month.

Other people like Abby (The) Librarian can do that and post blogs, but I don't have the energy. I really respect Abby's commitment to posting and writing her novel. Good work!

Needless to say, I haven't gotten a lot of actual physical reading done, but I have listened to one fantastic audibook.

Graceling Graceling by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It took me a few discs to get into this story, but once I was in, I was hooked and didn't want to get out of my car to go into the Library...or into my house. The full cast audio recording of "Graceling" is wonderful.
Katsa is graced--she has two different colored eyes and special powers--she is rare, a girl graced with killing. Her uncle Randa, king of the Midlands, uses her as his own personal attack dog. She hurts people so they obey him. She hates him, and herself for doing his bidding and so together with her cousin and some guards of Randa's, she starts a council to do good around the seven kingdoms. When she rescues the father of the king of one of the far away peaceful kingdoms she doesn't know what a can of worms she is opening. Nor does she realize she'll be opening her heart to the old man's grandson.

View all my reviews >>

I'm currently listening to the companion novel "Fire" which is not full cast audio, but is still awesome.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not so cozy mysteries.

Don't you really hate it when people post just to tell you they are sorry about their recent lack of posts? But you know, life is really busy what with the kids cats,conventions,commuting, and...all.

Yeah. I hate that too. *looks about shiftily*

So, as a special treat I'm going to spout off for a moment on something that has been occupying my thoughts ever since I got back from Bouchercon: Misogynistic violence against women in crime novels. At one of the panels I attended at Bouchercon someone randomly through out the fact that women are actually LESS LIKELY to be the victims of violent crime in real life, but in crime fiction the victims are almost always female. I decided to check this out and found a tidbit, at least for American crime: According to the 2008 Bureau of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey "Females were more likely than males to be victims of rape or sexual assault. Males experienced higher rates of victimization than females in all other violent crimes measured by the NCVS."

Of course, these statistics have one major flaw, they only include reported crime (well, how would they include the unreported stuff, now really?) One of the things that I remember from back in the days of getting my degree in Criminal Justice is that most crime goes unreported, and most men who are raped never tell anyone. So, maybe the reported crime statistics can be extrapolated to all crime statistics, but maybe not. Either way, I do believe that crime fiction is really really still skewed inappropriately to violence against women (and, children too.) The question is, why? Why do so many books feature horrible horrible crimes against women?

I'll admit that this question didn't even occur to me until that panel at Bouchercon, but once it was asked I couldn't stop thinking about it, but I don't have any good answers for you. All I've got is a link to an article focusing mostly on Steig Larsson's supposed "feminism" that was originally brought to my attention via Twitter by Barbara Fister, one of the women on the panel that opened my eyes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vampire Weekend.

No, not "Vampire Weekend" the band, who I sort of like and sort of want to punch in the face. I'm having an undead moment and everything I want to read right now, maybe for the foreseeable future, is about those who returned from the grave. Maybe my own fear of dying is acting up, maybe my inherently gothish nature is trying to resurface through my earth-toned wardrobe. Maybe it is just the beginning of Fall, the perfect time to think about death and reaping and the possibility of rebirth/new life. You might have noticed from the EPIC review that this kick has already been going on for a while, ever since my obsessive reading of all the entries on the blog Vampirely.
Uninvited Uninvited by Amanda Marrone

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Jordan is a smart kid, she makes good grades even though her school attendance is sporadic at best. Her attendance problems and social anxiety were bad and are now terrible, because her ex-boyfriend, Michael, is a vampire whose haunting her every night. The vampire in this book follows very Dracula/folkloric traditional rules. Crosses and holy water, stakes through the heart are all going to hurt, he can turn into mist and bats. And he has to be invited in order to enter a building.

Gorgeous Michael, despite telling Jordan that he still loves her and begging her to let him come in, is no Edward Cullen. He's a monster, and Jordan determines that quite likely he always was. The day she broke up with him because of her social anxiety he hooked up with a cheerleader later that day. He hung out with jerks, he thought he was god's gift to everyone. This book, as much as it seems like it might about paranormal love paradoxes is really and truly about issues. Jordan has social anxiety, a completely unstructured life with parents so laid-back it is hard to tell if they even care, and to top it off she self-medicates with any substance she can get ahold of...booze, coke, etc. Her friends Jordan's life has gotten so bad that she's starting to wonder if maybe she shouldn't just let Michael in. One of her three friends in the world is actually someone she truly likes, but they all feed her dysfunctions. I like the way Jordan goes from letting her issues get the best of her to getting the best of them, and her blood-sucking ex-boyfriend.

I love the way that the creepy manipulations of Michael and his overuse of the word "Love" actually comes off as creepy and horrible, instead of Twilight-esque sparkly vampire love manipulations. Really I was a little pleased and surprised by the directions this book took, and even though it was slow in parts (how many examples of vomiting from excessive substance abuse do you really need?), I'm glad I stuck it through.

View all my reviews >>

Later I will probably update you all about the second Generation Dead novel "Kiss of Life" which corrected what I didn't like about book one and was actually really a great sequel! Hooray! And, tonight I've got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Silver Kiss and Vampire Academy and so much other paranormal stuff to read that I could cry in relief that is going to be all vampires all the time on my days off of work. Now if Rachel at Vampirely would just update, my vampire weekend will be complete.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I read on my summer vacation.

Days off mostly mean "BRING HOME THE ENTIRE LIBRARY" and read it all at once. There are some other books like John Wray's Lowboy and China Miéville's The City and The City that I'm taking my time reading. Savoring so much that I may never get around to actually reviewing. On the other hand I brought home several books that I had been absolutely chomping at the bits to read and tell other people about. All of these books I read in one, one and one half, or two sittings at the most...and all except one I read just this past weekend.

Rampant Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Astrid hates unicorns. She's grown up with her mom's fanatical stories of conquering ancestors. All those ancestors were women, virgins, and they were all descended from Alexander The Great who rode an elephant-sized unicorn into battle. Astrid shies away from her mom's stories and the legacy she wants for Astrid, and since all the unicorns are supposed to have been killed by one of Astrid's ancestors a few hundred years ago. When Astrid's boyfriend gets gored by a goat-sized unicorn, and her entire world flips upside down as she realizes that her mom's crazy stories aren't just stories after all. The unicorns are back and it is up to Astrid and other unicorn hunters, all virginal female decedents of Alexander, to save the world from the six kinds of bloodthirsty mythical beasts...and the evil people trying to bring them back at all costs.
While there are some places where this story falls apart and becomes hard to follow (mainly I think it just needed to be pared down some, but I'm hoping some of the extra means Sequel!), there are a lot more places where bad-ass teen girls fight like hell and barely escape with their lives. Best of all it isn't Astrid and her backup dancers fighting, these girls have personalities, some of them very strong, all of them developed more than you'd expect. A must read for fans of Buffy, Gemma Doyle, and even Katniss Everdeen.

View all my reviews >>

Did I say Katniss Everdeen? I guess that means my next review is of Catching Fire! I'm still a little, just a tiny bit, sad that I had to wait for the book to come out and could not get an ARC to save my soul. But, sometimes that is life. Last year before the Hunger Games was the Hunger Games I was able to get a signed copy and spend a day at Anderson's YA Lit Conference with Suzanne Collins, so I feel like I'm actually ahead of the Hunger

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Katniss, oh Katniss, we rooted and cheered for you in the Reality TV Gladiator battle "The Hunger Games" and were awed by your courage and humanity. Now, only months later we realize along with you the horror of knowing that your trials only just started with the Hunger Games. Katniss's friends and family are threatened personally by the blood-thirsty tyrannical President Snow, who seems to be the only one who doesn't realize that uprisings are going to happen no matter what Katniss does, and his threats are only going to add fuel to the fire. And *spoiler alert*
everything does boil over when they decide to send all the past victors back to the Hunger year later and Katniss and Peeta are back in the arena. But this year, the competitors have a common enemy, and it isn't anyone in the arena. Oh and Peeta and she are still trying to figure out their relationship(s) each wants desperately to keep the other one alive.*/spoiler alert*
Suzanne Collins has this way of putting you in the middle of the action empathizing with Katniss on such a level that it is somehow both impossible to stop turning the pages because you NEED TO KNOW, but you are afraid to turn the pages too, because you don't want anything bad to happen to anyone you and Katniss care about. This book never fails to deliver on everything the Hunger Games promised...but I did kind of want more action in the beginning. I know, I know, there was a lot of tension, but it wasn't until Katniss felt free to fight back that anything really HAPPENED.
Still, wonderful, beautiful, evocative book that reminds me why I hate reality TV.

View all my reviews >>

Speaking of things I hate...that brings me to ZOMBIES.

Now if you know me you know I'm a card-carrying member of the Zombie Squad and that I prepare every day for the possibility of the Zombiepocalypse. Recently I read two Zombie books that are both amazing social commentaries and yet are two of the most different books I could ever tell you about. I read each in a single night. The first is the more traditional of the Zombie novels: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It is so far into the future after the Zombie-pocalypse that everyone in Mary's village is acclimated to unquestioningly following the rules that the Sisterhood sets forth. Well, follwoing the rules has kept them relatively safe and alive from the Unconsecrated hoard just outside of the fense so far, right? But, as her future becomes more tenous, mary grows more defiant of the edicts and the sisterhood. On top of all that, Mary's got boy troubles, family troubles, best friend troubles, and of course, Zombie troubles.
The book has all the interesting mysterious parts of the M. Night Shyamalan movie "the Village" but instead of a boring backstory about the evils of the "Modern World", we get ZOMBIES. Scary, flesh-eating, mindless, zombies. Zombies with the rotting faces of Mary's mother, father, sister-in-law, and friends. Did you ever notice that zombies are an interesting metaphor for the evils of the "Modern World"?
Mary's world has been shaped so much by living under the constant fear of horrifying death that every moment and every choice she makes is so very important.
Mary could be you, she has the same sorts of desires and daydreams as anyone. The first half is so atmospheric, creepy, and tense with the human side of living in a undead world that when it flows into the second action-packed (and a little violent) half you won't be able to put the book down. Don't let the "Teen Book" label fool you either. Carrie Ryan's story is not JUST for the young, it is for everyone who ever wondered what happens to humanity hundreds of years after the Dawn of the Dead.

View all my reviews >>

And then there is Generation Dead, the Anti-Zombie novel, in which the zombies don't want to eat your brains, they'd rather just be your friend.

Generation Dead (Generation Dead, #1) Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters is so far beyond my realm of Zombimagination that I can't even tell you why I love it so much. But, I'll try. The basic premise is that for some unknown reason US teens (and only US teens) have started coming back to life after they die (as long as their brains aren't destroyed, a nice traditional zombie-story touch.) Is it because the fear and revulsion that living people feel for the living impaired or differently biotic seems so familiar? Bioism is just another kind of -ism after all. So yeah, the social commentary is great. Awesome.
But the love story is even better. The main character, Phoebe, is so well drawn that I kind of wish she'd been one of my besties in high school. The competitors for her affection are her best friend and typically atypical jockish next door neighbor Adam; and Tommy, who died in a car wreck a few years before and moved with his mom to Oakvale because the high school has a good living impaired program. Tommy is an activist zombie, he's got a blog, joins the football team, and takes Phoebe to a dance all of which are incendiary to those who think that the differently biotic are signs of the apocalypse, or that they must have been so bad that they were rejected from the afterlife. But does Tommy really feel anything for Phoebe, or just for the fact that she is a Trad willing to make the same radical statements about Bioism that he is.
Zombie horror flicks lovers beware, this book is more Guess who's coming to dinner?" than Night of the living dead . The zombies scare people, because they are different and unknown, but a camaraderie even forms amongst some of the DBs and living kids when they participate in a special work-study group.
My one complaint with the novel is that to build tension we see the "bad" guy's point of view and we know that he is unstable and what he is planning. Unfortunately since we spend all this time with the bad guy you'd expect more character development than "he had a girlfriend who died and didn't come back." But, that's all you get, that same little piece of information in not really very different ways. And in real life some people are quite fixated and single-minded, maybe he was painted that way on purpose. Unfortunately it made me more bored than tense.
Anyway, if that is my one complaint in a zombie novel that is more about -isms than it is about running around screaming and trying to find an ax or a shotgun...than you know it is worth a read.

View all my reviews >>

The great thing about all of these books, the reason I know that they all deserve these ratings is that as soon as I finished the book and closed it, I wanted to open it right back up again and start all over. Definitely going to acquire them all for my personal library when I get a chance...and bookshelves.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wasn't the Umbrella Academy where they train people to fight Zombies in Resident Evil?

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There is a device in fiction (and sadly, sometimes in real life) that I can not abide. When adopted/ive family members, for whatever reason, are considered less than and not equal to biological family. Partially because my mom, my uncle, and a cousin I didn't know I had until just a few years ago were all adopted by their parents. Partially because for a number of reasons I would rather adopt than bear a child and I do not want to raise a child in a society that stigmatizes the fact that I chose them. Two things in this otherwise charming series of somewhat disjointed vignettes ruined my enjoyment because of my particular bias. So this is going to be one of those reviews where I get too personal with my reading. Sorry, Shannon Hale.

The first point is one of the 7 siblings adopted makes out with one of the other siblings. These children were raised as brothers and sisters from nearly birth.(This family is comprised from 7 of 43 babies that were spontaneously simultaneously expelled as full formed infants from women who had not shown any signs of pregnancy. Hargreeve's (father figure) could only find these 7 left from that incident and he adopts them all as soon as possible after they are born.)

I don't know about you, but I'm grossed out by sibling makeouts even if the siblings weren't "biologically related." Maybe this was an intentional gross-out factor? The other moment that set me off is not even in the main story arc, but a part of extra stories at the end. A villain asks the rough/broody Wolverinish character,Kraken,if it will bother him to see his whole family killed he says, "Not Really--we're adopted." My blood boiled my vision went hazy and red and I turned into The Awkwardable Hulk. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. Mostly because now I'm going to tear your book--that you obviously worked hard on to prove that you aren't just another alcoholic rock star*--apart.

Of course, I don't know how intentional it is, but if you haven't noticed by now the story is a bit of a spoof (or rip-off, depending on just how much you really hate My Chemical Romance) on the X-men, with the enigmatic "father" Prof.X-type figure being a total Jerkface McGee to his family. Though actually other than the whole raising up the mutanty superpowered kids Hargreeve is more "Dr. Kellogg" from The Road to Wellville than Prof.X. He's such an over-acheiver who expects too much from children that the "unspecial" one actually writes a tell-all memoir. I like that each of the main characters is as dysfunctional as they are special, and each in their own way. And I like that instead of much world-saving the family is mostly showcased at some of their worst moments.

Okay, I have to admit, the adoption thing does bother me, a lot, and the storytelling is choppy at best. But it IS interesting, and there is a talking chimpanzee named Dr. Pogo, whose hideous past is only briefly hinted at (these hints are actually the choppy/disjointedness I'm talking about. I get what they were going for but it really didn't work for me.)

Actually, I must grudgingly admit there were a few little moments of humor in the book too. For instance, I crack up at the repeated use of "space" as a modifying descriptor for "alien." But maybe that is just me.

The art is great. You will not hear a complaint from me about that aspect, except that I actually kind of liked Gerard Way's initial ideas better than Gabriel Ba's final product. The Viole Blanche is well imagined and beautiful, if not the most original idea. But still, to me as a fan of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and so on and so forth, the whole flawed superhero thing is starting to be as tedious as the whole perfect superhero thing was during the golden age. But to those who only love their superheroes with issues, this book will be right up your ally.

*I know, low blow, but google "drunk Gerard Way" and you will get 138,000 results. I understand sudden fame is difficult to handle and according to internets he is not drinking anymore, good for him.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wondrous Strange or Expected Usual

As promised in my last entry I'm thinking a lot about why I'm "rating" the book, as though my rating will really affect anyone's decision to buy it for their Library collection or anyone who is a fan of that kind of book's decision to read it or buy it for themselves. It will check out of your Library. It will provide you with a few hours of entertainment. The writing itself isn't effervescent but it isn't half bad either. But on a pure quality and originality level this book, for me, fell flat. I have decided I like the rating as a dimension of my own introspection about a book. But my criteria for 2 (or 2.25 as I like to modify with partial stars on this site) on's rating system is going to be different than someone elses, obviously. One day I'd like to go back and reconsider my ratings and if after having time away from the book do I still feel the same way about my "rating."

Wondrous Strange Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

My rating: 2.25 of 5 stars
17-year-old Kelley is the red-headed understudy for role of Titania in an off-off-off-off Broadway production of Mid-summer Night's Dream who gets the literal lucky break. The leading lady "busts an ankle" and joy of joys she has the part. Hooray, great story about alternative career paths and following your dreams.

Except not, at all. This is yet another story about an ordinary girl who finds out she's a fairy princess, specifically Irish and with all the fun trappings and problems. After reading Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, or any of the numerous American Urban Fantasy takes on the exact same theme I'm actually pretty done and pretty bored. Which isn't to say that the book isn't readable, and it makes a pretty good read-alike to all the Cassandra Clare/Holly Black/Melissa Marr/and even yes, Laurell K. Hamilton for your older audience. And there are some unique elements that sets the story apart: I like that this book pays homage to The Bard. I like the changeling storyline and the human guards of the fairy realm, The Janus Guards, some of whom are ass-kicking ladies. I like the Central Park central location and a certain kelpie who moves into a bathtub.

Unfortunately all of that which I liked, and which fans of the Irish-specific mythology as Urban Fantasy genre will also like doesn't lead to a great book. The discovery of Lucky the kelpie and the fact that she's a fairy princess takes up too much time and the actual battle and conflict is rushed into the last few pages of the book. I did not believe the romance between Sonny Flannery, Janus Guard, and Kelley Winslow, mediocre actress/fairy princess. And by not believe I mean I'm completely unsure when he went from being creepy stalker dude to love interest but it happened somehow without ever actually convincing me that her character would actually not see him as a creepy stalker anymore. Also, despite all the time spent on her discovery of fairy princess powers it is just so ho-hum. Her reaction didn't jump off the page or do anything new, she just came around after a short time. Which might be better than pages and pages of ranting and railing and disbelief, which also would have been terrible, but still...boring. This book is neither wondrous nor, in this YA book market, all that strange.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good questions, Shannon Hale.

On her blog, author Shannon Hale asked book readers and reviewers to self-evaluate. I thought I'd take her up on that here and now. My answers are bolded; the questions were taken directly from her website.

1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?

Actually, yes, because now I keep better records of what I am reading and am actually more open to trying a variety of books. I definitely think that reviewing has changed my reading experience for the positive.

2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?

If a book is particularly good or particularly bad then I might rate as I read, but usually I don't even know how I feel about a book, really know, until I sit down to think through and write my review or discuss it with one of my book groups.

3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?

Only in the way that I'm now trying new and different things, and sometimes finding that I can't finish them, but at least I'm trying. Also, because I'm getting Advance Copies of books I have a tendency to try and read those where I may not have.

4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?

Yes! Almost always. If I didn't like a book I try hard to think about things other people would about it and question why I didn't. Reviewing forces me to think much more about everything to do with the story/book I just read. And in a cheesy way allows me to more fully digest what I've been reading. I'm much less likely to make snap judgments now.

5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?

Actually I didn't start doing the rating until I started writing my reviews on Goodreads. I have issues with their system because I want to be able to do 1/2 stars. Also, I should mention that I often surprise myself with the ratings I give. Why am I so hard on books, even the ones I like? I also hadn't really thought about the ratings past the "well it is better than a three so I guess I'll give it a four" thing. I guess I should really evaluate the necessity for me to post those stars on this blog.

6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

Well, the first part of this I already answered in #5. I have rated, but mostly because it is an available option and I will consider carefully that system in the future. I view my role as reviewer on this blag as part readers' adviser (who else might like this book?) part critic (but why did I like/dislike it? what are the problems? is the writing good even if the author couldn't plot their way out of a paper bag?) and part storyteller (what does this book say to me and have to do with my life, how does my reading fit in with my experiences? if I can't relate to this book can someone else?)

Well, this ends my answering of Shannon Hale's questions. I have a book of hers, Book of a Thousand Days, to begin listening to on my way to and from work so look for my "rating" of that in the coming weeks.

Speaking of blogging, the newsletter I used to edit is now a blog. It is always so meta when I blog about blogging.

Also, does anyone have a favorite list of Twilight Read-alikes? Because, even though I did make one and I do have several standard recommendations I pull out for both adult and YA fiction, I have met the occasional patron who's already read everything I suggest. Wily patrons and their voracious reading!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Harry Potter and the Future is Now.

From Museum and Ice Cream Cake

LED dress from the Future.

Yesterday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry to see Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Because we are not the smartest, we didn't purchase tickets ahead of time, and thusly ended up spending some quality time wandering about MSI looking at oddities like the LED dress above (that would be in the part where the Future is Now), Lego(tm) Skyscrapers, and poop to power. No really:
From Museum and Ice Cream Cake

Harry Potter: The Exhibition was totally worth the wait. The attention to detail in all the sets and costumes and props, from the slug on Slughorn's wand to the knit blanket on Ron's bed, was astounding. And though I feel the books and the movies are so different as to almost not be related is good to see that the world J.K. Rowling created was effectively brought to life in both. If you get the chance to see the exhibition, I recommend that you do. PS: Buckbeak is SO COOL.

Anyway, if you like the world building in HP then do I have a book for you! Maybe.
Full disclosure: I got the ARC from our Children's department head who got it from the publisher, who sent it to her possibly by mistake.

Shifter (The Healing Wars, #1) Shifter by Janice Hardy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In Nya's world pain is a product to be bought and sold. Many people, including Nya, can take pain from others and heal them in the process. Unlike most people though, Nya can't transfer the pain into the Pynvium stone that is later shaped into pain-dealing weapons. Nya is instead, a Shifter, she can act as a conduit, shifting pain from one person to another, sometimes holding the pain to herself for a time. She's unusual and dangerous and valuable to those who lack scruples enough to use her when the Pynvium supply runs low.

The premise alone really sucked me into this intricate novel. The world building is very well thought out and interesting. Nya is spunky and determined, realistic about the bad things that will probably happen, but willing to go through them anyway to save those she cares about. She's such a likable character that some of the slower moments of the book are made quite a bit more tolerable by extension. And the ending (part of a planned series it seems, being that it is the Healing Wars #1) is very snap, bang, whizzle! The beginning draws the reader in with instant action and excitement. But then in the middle there's a lot of tension and adventure, but also a lot of: "and then I went here and did this thing and then I went here and did this other thing and over here I was doing this stuff and really it is all totally relevant I swear and have I mentioned that I hate this race of people who invaded our land and treat us like crap? Let me reflect with you for a moment on how evil imperialism is and how happy I was before it darkened my doorstep...Nevermind that I am very young to remember life before the invasion so very well! Or at least, those three memories I keep telling you about over and over."
So what I'm saying here is that it is good that the ending suddenly speeds it all up again. And, good characters and an excellent new world can definitely redeem indulgent editing.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, August 3, 2009

And the winner is...

Amanda! Who evidently never drove in the southern part of Indiana,where I'm from. Once you get to Bloomington you get hills, and past that the landscape is filled with mini-mountains (or really big hills) sometimes called "knobs." There's even skiing! So contrary to popular belief, Indiana is not all flat and boring. Just, most of it is.

I have to say though, while you guys did say some v.nice things, there are even more truly amazing things about Indiana that weren't mentioned. Some of these facts beat the pants off of that Dr. Jones you guys kept mentioning. For instance #29: Peru, Indiana was once known as the circus capital of the United States. Lots of actually cool famous people are from Indiana or did stuff in Indiana. Kurt Vonnegut and Charles M. Schulz were from Indiana. So was Orville Redenbacher (who my parents once met in a hotel elevator.)A metric ton of astronauts started in the Hoosier state. Let's not forget about my favorite sex researcher, and yours, Alfred Kinsey. What I'm saying here is; let's be honest about Dr. Jones, that last Crystal Skull movie wasn't even all that great!

Now that you've all been schooled in Hoosier pride, and the winner has been announced, this concludes my first contest. Thank you everyone who participated, or even thought about participating but couldn't think of anything to say about Indiana.
Many more contests to come, and soon! Check back next week, because if things go well, I might have a signed book to give away!

My biggest question remains: why all the butt-smacking?

Pop Pop by Gordon Korman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The football pre-season starts next Saturday. Do you want to know why I know this? It isn't because I personally LOVE the gridiron or even know why it is called "gridiron." No, it is because from August to February I live with a football junkie. I get to hear all about the draft, the fantasy league winners and losers, and our TV is taken over by pointless commentary after pointless commentary. Madden0whatever is played non-stop. As a not-particularly sporty person there are only two ways to deal with this situation. One is to protest, to complain, to throw up one's hands and move out. The other is to try and figure out what all the fuss is about. Oh, I still roll my eyes whenever I get treated to a 10 minute diatribe on why Adrian Peterson is the best running back EVAR, but I also watch games and ask questions about why something was called this way or that. Or, what that flag means, or why they got an extra point, etc. I feel like I'm getting to understand a little bit more about the game and its appeal. A little.

Unlike me, football is Marcus Jordan's life. He and his mom have just moved to a new town to escape his fascist dad and so his mom can take pictures of rocks. He starts practicing in a park and forms an eccentric and erratic friendship with a middle-aged guy named Charlie, who is extremely spry and who teaches Marcus more about football in just a few weeks than all of his years on a team. But, Marcus ends up covering for his new friend when he discovers Charlie's erratic behavior isn't just from a quirky personality.

Along the way Marcus barely squeaks onto the football team. He wants to be QB, but his new high school's team is undefeated and record breaking and so Marcus has to battle their unwillingness to mess with status quo and the QB, Troy, who drove them to victory. Troy hates Marcus immediately, and it doesn't help that Troy's on and off again girlfriend is interested in Marcus, and Marcus is VERY interested in Alyssa too.

So immediately we've got a complicated plot, told in a straightforward manner, by a kid who just wants to Do The Right Thing. Marcus and all the characters are well developed. The story draws you in from the first page. The plot never slows down and the conflicts are very real. My only complaint with the book is that the "mystery" of Charlie goes on a little too long. I find it hard to believe Marcus wouldn't have started asking pertinent questions earlier in the story and figuring out answers earlier on too. At any rate, this book has romance, fights, pranks, friendship, brain-injury awareness, kidnapping, and lots and lots of Football. It is the ultimate blitz of a book! Even for a wannabe fan like me.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, August 1, 2009

2 posts in 1 day: Review of "Raven"

Raven Raven by Allison van Diepen

My rating: 3 (and 1/2) of 5 stars
Even though this book is a completely engrossing and resplendent read it didn't get more stars because I have no idea what an airtrack, suicide, 6-steps or any of the rest of these terms mean in relationship to breakdancing. Since these and other breakdancing terms are liberally sprinkled throughout the book without any explanation of what they mean or how the moves look I had a hard go of staying in the story at times. While this technique sped up the action of the breakdancing scenes, it made it impossible for me to envision what they were doing.

OTHERWISE. I totally loved this book. It was a fast paced read with a engrossing main character, Nicole (Raven), who doesn't sound like anyone else in YA ficion that I can think of...and her New York doesn't sound like any other New York that I've read. She has this group of friends that is not bound by anything except maybe age range and love of breakdancing. I like that in a novel (And if you do as well then you should maybe also take part in this book challenge.

Of course, this book is about more than breakdancing. It is about love and friendship and family and living forever vs living as a human. The immortals (Jiang Shi) in the book are conflicted by their immortality and how they attained and keep it. Though none of them, even the leader/mastermind who is hiding things, comes off as evil; their enemies don't come off as evil either. Overzealous yes, evil no. I think that might be my favorite thing about the book, the characters, even those without a lot of "screen time" feel totally realistic and multi-dimensional without a lot of random crap thrown in to make them that way. It is a good story, mostly well told.

View all my reviews >>

Contested: Hoosier Pride.

Are y'all ready for this?
Viola in Reel Life Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

This is what it looks like when a book disparages my homeland and makes me too angry to finish. Each slur against Indiana made me angrier and angrier until finally there was a comment about a teacher not possibly being able to buy leopard print Sketchers in Indiana because they were too cool. (SKETCHERS? REALLY A-TRIG? Not only have I owned similar shoes (and numerous pairs of Sketchers) but I bought them all at reasonable prices and tax rates because I got them in Indiana!)

I gave this book more than enough chances, we are almost to Thanksgiving in the school year and still the Viola has little to nothing good to say about Indiana and so I'm done. I give up, and you get to reap the benefits of my ex-pat Hoosier pride.

You get to participate in my first ever book give-away contest to win this ARC! I think that my state-bias might be clouding my vision to the rest of the story. Especially since I rather liked Big Stone Gap. So, I'm ready to give this ARC on to someone else to read and review. To win this contest write a comment on this post filled with Hoosier love. By which I mean, it must state at least one reason why Indiana is great (or at least, not nearly so bad as A-Trig is making it out to be.) It can be something you experienced, heard about, learned in school, whateva. I will RANDOMLY choose a winner from the comments. Only one comment per person please.

I know my home state has flaws and parts of it smell funny. I know there are a lot of rednecks (so many that some in St. Louis have replaced the word for redneck with "Hoosier.")But, I also know that some awesome people have come from there, spent time there, or were born there (and no, I'm not even including just generally famous people like John Mellencamp or Dan Quayle in that list, but I am looking at you Will Shortz.)

Many of my friends and all of my immediate family live there, and I feel like many of the qualities I have that I actually like about myself come from being raised there and no where else in the world. So let's hear it for the Crossroads of America, and me passing this not even released yet book onto someone who can appreciate it more than I'm capable. The contest ends Monday, August 3rd at 7pm (EST)Indiana Time (well, most of Indiana time!) Don't forget to leave your email address or some other way for me to contact you if you've won!I'll also be posting the winner Monday night.
Commence to commenting!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A post.

A band.
Do you know who it is easy to love? A little indie band called the wrens, that's who. They played a very packed Schubas. There was one awkward moment (probably because I was there, as I make things awkward with my very presence) when the mike was turned out to the audience during the last song of the encore "She Sends Kisses" and we collectively froze, then forgot the words to chorus. That didn't ruin the magic of seeing a band that doesn't often tour, and when they do, they put all of themselves into the shows. I've been to a lot of concerts in my life and the majority of them have just been like listening to the album but really loud with the musicians in the room, drunkenly not doing much to entice me to care about watching what they do onstage. This concert of middling aged indieguys from the East Coast was the exact opposite of that experience. Good times were had by all, because this band understand showmanship, and how to vary up sound, texture, distance and style to help make good music.

A challenge.
Abby and Liz have made me aware of the Color Online:Color Me Brown Book Challenge. I will be answering the call of the challenge, will you?

A discussion.
As part of the Year of Dangeresque Reads I joined a Literary Genre Study. Last week I went to the second of the Adult Reading Round Table literary discussions. This one was of Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. I went in thinking I was going to spend the majority of any time I spoke defending my position that the book was trite and could have been better. Instead I found myself drawn into a lively discussion about the fact that had it been a genre book it would have been panned by everyone, but because he was a credible literary author he must have made the decisions he did with the book very intentionally, perhaps to point out that very fact? It is hard to say what McEwan's motivations truly were, and that is when the conversation turned to leading book discussions generally. Some of the Librarians present like to introduce information about the author and facts surrounding the novels, some only like to discuss the book without outside information at all, some will bring up the topical info if the discussion itself isn't going well, it seemed like every single person at the discussion had an entirely different style of book club. Which, was really awesome when you think about it. I've had a couple of not-well attended book clubs over the summer and all of this information is serving to make how I lead discussions in the future much better. Of course, taking the info about book clubs geared towards adults and seniors and applying it to Teens is going to take some work.

A plan.
I'm forming a plan to do a giveaway this week of the last ARC I reviewed, Laura Ruby's Bad Apple. I haven't exactly decided how this is going to work out so please bear with me until I come up with a suitable book-themed contest.

A convention.
I just found out I'm going to Bouchercon! I'm trying to figure out a way to get my mom in just for one day to meet Michael Connelly who is one of her FavieFaves of all time. I'm totally excited about a weekend of whodunits, even though after ALA last week I swore off conventions for a while....oops.

A review.
Fathom Fathom by Cherie Priest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very long time ago on a Livejournal Community called Gothic Babes I saw a post by a writer calling herself WickedWish. She had written and published a book called Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I thought she was interesting and so I paid attention to her journal for a while, because even though her book wasn't a national bestseller and she still worked a dayjob I thought her writing style was interesting enough that she was going to publish something worth national attention. I was, of course, quite right and she's become quite the popular fantasy author. Good on Cherie. Now that I've regaled you with my tale of discovering her so long before you did, let me tell you about this book. It is dark and quick and epic and slippery. The point of view switches pick you up and drop you down into the important parts, there is not a lot of fat in this book. There is also no mercy. Characters you like will die; characters you hate will live.
I took away one star because I felt like there was more to this story, that there were some blank pages waiting to be filled in. But there were pirates, and sea monsters, and stone girls and gods and monsters, and murder and mayhem and what more could you as for really? Not much, if you ask me.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, July 17, 2009

A sorta fairy tale: Laura Ruby's Bad Apple

Bad Apple Bad Apple by Laura Ruby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe you can tell a lot about us by the stories we tell about ourselves. Tola's (whose name is from a shortened Italian Cinderella) stories are told through her art. The stories about her are told through the internet and vicious rumors spreading like wildfire through the school. No one believes her, and she's established early on as an unreliable narrator. It doesn't help that the rumors are getting her and her favorite teacher in a lot of trouble. There are so many delicate elements to this story: Tola's family, her friends--past and present, prince charming, her art, her obsession with the Bros. Grimm and her own wicked stepmother, and the teacher in question. Though I must admit that, of course, my favorite character is the blip of the School Media Specialist, Ms. Esme (who fights against censorship and gives Tola subversive materials.) The characters are so strong, the story fluid and for the most part, very well paced. The humor fits well and never seems forced. Oh, and the hero is an aspiring pastry chef, and since my own personal prince charming is currently in pastry school, I can totally appreciate a prince charming who woes through baked goods.

I saw Laura Ruby talk on a panel about Sex in YA Lit at ALA last Monday. I didn't remember her as the author of the ARC I'd just started, but when I put the two things together it totally made sense. She tackles tough topics in such an amazing and inventive way. Well played, Laura Ruby.

According to the Advanced Reading Copy I have this book is due out in October of 2009.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, July 16, 2009


The High Strung at Ela Area Public Library
Later I will tell you all about how it is to host the Rock and Roll Library Tour (Yeay! the High Strung!) one day and then go to ALA the next. After that spend the next morning at ALA again (oh, and meet your favorite author ever FTW!)! Then go to work that afternoon, work the desk for 2 hours, and then have a wildly wacky Teen Council meeting that lasts 1/2 hour longer than planned. Oh, and sometimes that book club with only two sign-ups you dread can turn out to be a reaffirmation of why you became a Teen Librarian in the first place.


Right now I just want to point out that if you look at the very bottom of the page here and here you might notice a familiar name. This is the ultimate ReTweet, thanks LJ!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


After reading all of Deathnote I tried to start on Bleach. But to tell you the truth, I think I need a break from deathgods. So, Ouran Host Club instead?

And if you understood what I just said than you probably should stop by The Library's Anime Club. Or form (or ask about forming) your own Anime Club at your Library.

When you think about it, Otaku and Libraries were really kind of made for each other.* I don't know about your Library but mine carries a ton of good manga and anime. We have a gazillion different "how to draw and/or write" manga books. We have a wonderful membership with Operation Anime. We have big screens to show the movies and we have awesome teens who want to watch. Everybody wins!

*I am so very well aware of the fact that this isn't breaking news. But to make up for all of that....KITTENS!

Well, a kitten at any rate.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

xxxHolic and other kinds of Holics

There is a lot of Librarianing going on right now. At the end of June I successfully planned and pulled off a Twilight Prom with 3 different kinds of trivia quizzes (regular book trivia, who said it, and guess whose car?), a ton of prizes, fanart and fanfiction, and a costume contest. It was an intense program attended by upwards of 50 kids, many of whom were in their prom finest. Had it not been for the desk staff and the teen volunteers who helped me with it, there would not have been a Prom. And I didn't realize how much time and effort I'd put into until I got to back work after an extended recovery weekend and realized all the end/beginning of the month things I have to do hadn't magically been done while I was away. And I haven't even mentioned our awesome Summer Reading Program yet. It is awesome. That's actually all you need to know about SRPs in general. Anyway, now that I'm getting back into the groove post-prom, I've been ordering books. And, I recently put a bunch of new books out on our brand new display wall in the Teen Zone at my Library.(Did I mention the beginning of June we completed a month-long renovation project? Our Popular Materials department is even MORE WONDERFUL now.)

Even better, today the head of our Children's department handed me the motherlode of YA ARCs (sent to her by accident of being added to a list at one time and never removed) to read and review! So, with summer on the downhill slide I'm anticipating a bit more time to read and review. I think that my new philosophy on reviewing is to not review what everyone already knows and loves. I think I'd like to have a long bout of discovering the undiscovered. So, if you read this and you'd like me to discover you, feel free to contact me. But even if not I've got plenty to keep me busy reviewing for a while. And, here's the other thing I've decided about my reviews: I'm turning into Kirkus with their all-negative all-the-time approach to reviews. I don't hate everything I read, but for some reason it is mostly the stuff I don't like that motivates me to review it.

That changes right now when I tell you about the series xxxHolic by Clamp. I haven't watched the TV series, and I know next to nothing about Tsubasa, but I love love love love love love love love xxxHolic. I'm starting book 11 tonight. The series follows Watanuki, a college student who can see and interact with spirits, as he begins to work for a woman named Yūko Ichihara who can help him...for a price. The series expertly weaves serious issues and "lessons" about respecting oneself, friendship, and upholding values into wacky highjinks and silly crushes. Like all manga, the fact that it is a comic doesn't make it suitable for all ages, but for those who are mature enough to get it, it will make them think and laugh at the same time.

My Holic is reading, but I seem to have fallen off the wagon and need to get back on. My own Summer Reading Log only has one book and several manga on it! Must.Find.Time.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

They don't make pirates like they used to

The Dust of 100 Dogs The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I love pirates. I love female kickass pirates even more. But this book, despite an abundance of piratical awesometude, managed to disappoint me. Here's why: one character split between two bodies and time period was really well developed. Which would have been great— if she also had a supporting cast of believable characters. I did not, for one second, believe in the Frenchman or his modern incarnation. I was un-amused by Seannie and the first mate David, both of whom felt like throwaways. Too much is going on in this book and therefore much in the way of characterization (beyond the one dimension plastic characters of abusive foster father and repentant foster mother, brave and wonderful—but dead (of course)—parents and brother, awesome love interest who is missing for most of the book then suddenly reappears at the end.) And finally, an unmitigated repressed homosexual evildoer who not only has a single course rape/revenge mindset towards our heroine, but also abuses dogs. Oh, and contemporary* reincarnated version of the pirate girl has both a stereotype of a drug dealer brother and loser parents that actually serve little purpose to advance the plot.

Seriously. Too much going on in this “YA” novel. A lot of the book stops you with implausibility as well as its preachy (though occasionally informative) history lessons. The ending is both unsatisfactory and blindly predictable. Still, worth reading for piratical adventures and Emer's sassy attitude (even if I'm still not sure exactly where she learned to be a badass ninja pirate fighter.)

*And by “Contemporary Teen” as put on the book jacket, we mean 1970s, evidently.

View all my reviews.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Audiobooks I have loved and lost.

I had discovered audiobook reader Anna Fields/Kate Fleming just a few short months ago and have been listening to her almost non-stop since. I ordered everything that sounded interesting that she read. Then at an ARRT meeting I found out she had passed, tragically. And I finished listening to one of the most beautiful stories I've heard her read today. So I dedicate this entry to her. I hope when my mom finds out it is a mom-read that she gets the audiobook.

Bel Canto Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Patchett tells you in the beginning what is going to happen in the end. But, you won't believe it.

A dinner party for an illustrious japanese business man goes horribly wrong when it is taken over by terrorists who mistakenly believe that the president of the unnamed south american country will be attending. The president stayed home to watch his favorite soap opera instead of attending what was supposed to be the most important night of his country's future. The terrorists had planned to have the president and be out of the building within just a few minutes, but when they find out he really and truly isn't there they decide to take everyone hostage. As the story unfolds what starts as a hostage situation becomes much more complex. The terrorists and hostages spend each day, every day, in close proximity. The terrorists are for the most part barely older than children, two of them are female. There are three older generals in charge, but they start to seclude themselves from the day to day terrorist business. The mansion of the party becomes the universe to everyone and roles become blurred. People are people, after all, regardless of whether they wear the old worn fatigues of a terrorist or the neatly pressed tuxedo or evening gown of a hostage.

Crying on the tollway into work is always awkward. Because no matter what the author tells you at the beginning, the ending will still shock and sadden you. The book unfolds at a leisurely pace, but still manages to be a fairly quick listen (only 9 discs!) Anna Fields/Kate Fleming had her leant her ability towards creating nuanced characters without ever distracting from the story. Patchett's and situations are so well drawn, her since of timing and exposition and dialogue could have been so stilted and far fetched but instead flow into complete suspension of disbelief.

This is definitely a book to recommend to my mom.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Notes from the Midnight Driver

I should preface my review by saying it isn't entirely impartial. A few weeks ago the School Media Specialist at one of the middle schools I work with called and told me that Jordan Sonnenblick would be there the next day for their one book one school author visit for "Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie" and would I like to come hear him speak? Well, I'd been meaning to get over to the middle school around then of course I said yes.
Confession: NftMD is the first Sonnenblick book I've read. I have a huge pile of stuff to read at any given moment and the stuff I want to read sometimes gets pushed to the back. Plus, at my library "Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie" is ALWAYS checked out and I'm on hold, alright? The point is that I got to meet Jordan Sonnenblick and he was energetic and passionate and fantastic. And then I got to watch him speak to a big group of 6th graders and when he called two of them out for talking during his presentation you could almost see the middle school teacher he used to be rising up from the depths of the author he'd become. I'm glad I got the chance to meet him before I read any of his books actually. I was far less liable to trip over my own tongue trying to heap on my blundering brand of praise. I mean, I'm the awkward librarian and it only gets worse when I'm a fan. (You should have seen it when I met Caroline B. Cooney, oh man, talk about gauche.)

Anyway, here's my review of a book by a very nice guy:
Notes from the Midnight Driver Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
We all do stupid things. Alex did one of the stupidest. He got angry, got drunk, and decided that this was the perfect time to steal the car and yell at his dad for making him angry.

Luckily for Alex, he didn't get far and the only casualty was the neighbor's expensive* garden gnome.

Alex gets punished, super punished, by being forced to do community service at a retirement home. He's now company for one particular old man for three hours every Wednesday night until he works off 100 hours. And then the fun starts. Let's be honest here folks, none of what I'm telling you about this plot is going to surprise you. It is the feel good tearjerker of my night. And I did cry, whooboy. I bawled through the last few pages there. There are some characteristic Sonnenblick elements, even characters you might recognize, and that is what makes the story great. It is a familiar story, well and humorously told, and in a unique voice. To my mind, that's better than what 95% of books I read even come close to providing.

*$374 seemed expensive to Alex and to me. I think maybe he killed the Travelocity gnome and now we must all roam alone.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dear Zachary.

I just finished this movie five minutes ago. It took a minute to get into. Did I really want to watch what was beginning to look a lot like an MSNBC special report? It was even produced by MSNBC!

Then I forgot what the film seemed like and just watched. In horror and in awe I couldn't stop watching. Tears haven't even dried up yet. Kate and David and Kurt and Andrew and Zachary affected my life and my sense of well being. The films from Kurt and Andrew's youth look like films I've made with my friends. You know or you are people like them. Just hope nothing so horrible is ever allowed to happen in your life.

Also, I blame Canada.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mistress of the Art of Death---Finally I am reviewing this book!

Who would you recommend this book to? This is a question, as readers' advisors, that we are to think about whenever we read anything. But most often my way of telling if a book is really going to stick with me (most YA fiction excluded) is if I want my mom to read it so I can discuss it with her. My mom has always been a huge influence on my reading. All the series I've ever been swept away on have been because she was reading them. Especially mysteries. My mom loves a good whodunit. And so do I.

So this blog now has a whole new standard for reviews defined this way: Books I would recommend to My Mom. She's going to love this standard. What it means is that when I find something I consider to be Mom-worthy (well-paced, well-written, re-readable or a series with a lot of appeal, basically an overall winner with little room for useless nonsense)I will mark the entries with the tag "My Mom." Don't expect this for every book, or even most of them. But today I have one for you. Mom, take this one to heart.

Yesterday I finished Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death.
You might recognize this as the book in my online profile pictures. I've been reading snippets forever, but since I own it, all the other genre studies and need to reads kept taking precedence. Until I reached that hook moment where I couldn't put it down.

This book was recommended to me by Big Sleep Books in St. Louis as a read-alike to one of my all time favorite books, The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I love the Alienist because it has well known historical figures, a well-researched time period and setting that seeps from every page, and the early ways science and reason are employed to catch the killer astounded me in a way that surpassed even Sherlock Holmes. It is one of the most tightly stitched stories I've ever read. Beautiful and infinitely re-readable. There was another book to but it didn't quite match up to The Alienist.

Mistress of the Art of Death has all of the same appeal elements, but a different time period and a far pluckier hero. I've mentioned this book before, and how hard it is to get into. But once I was into it and fully committed I was wowed. The main character, Adelia, is so anomalous for the time, but she is exactly how I would have wanted to be had I been living in Henry II's England. And I love a book that teaches me things about history, science, and/or people without me ever really realizing it until I'm spouting off some random trivia and realize that I got it from a mere story. This book has all that in SPADES. And the reason it is slow in the beginning is because Franklin wants to make sure we really and truly get the era we are entering into, and though she fully admits to fudging some things for the story's sake, she does a brilliant job. The plot unfolds slowly because there is so much Era to contend with, but the plot never feels secondary to the setting. Really well played, and totally mom-worthy.

Wrong again it seems.

My last post, months ago now, was all about how I didn't like ARC of Fade to Blue. I didn't think kids would like it either. I was wrong. I gave it to some of my teens and they passed it around and everyone loved it.
Shocked face.

Cut to the reviews of another ARC I was reading in VOYA. Both the teen reviewer and the librarian/educator reviewer gave the book No More Us For You much higher marks then I would have ever dreamed.

Both of these books had felt unfinished or somehow lacking to me. Maybe I didn't read them closely enough. Maybe I need to rethink entirely how I review. On the other hand, maybe opinions are as opinions do. Nora Rawlinson of EarlyWord gave a talk recently that I attended on the connection between publishers and librarians. It turns out that librarians are more inclined to buy mid-level or poorly performing (sales-wise) books than other buyers. And I'm willing to bet that these are the books that we end up culling again and again from our shelves. And these aren't books that are critically panned necessarily. Some of my lowest circulation rates are on books that are festooned with medal after medal.

My point with this post is to really say that there is no accounting for taste, and what appeals to me might not appeal to you. And that I'm back, and ready to review for you. I've got an ARC of David Cullen's "Columbine" courtesy of Nancy Rawlinson and it is affecting me in ways I never thought that tragedy would. It happened my junior year in high school and I thought--up until now--that I was too cool to care. I was wrong.

Sometimes-- it is good to admit you can be wrong.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fade away.

I just finished reading an ARC of Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin. And I use the word "reading" very lightly. Mostly, I had to skim because the whole thing was confusing and nightmarish. The basic plot was a matrix style thriller where the main character, Sophie Blue, is fighting everyone in the town including her mother to keep herself from being used as a mule for the matrix style 'virtuality' developed by all the teens parents and all the students were given up as test subjects. The scenes were short repeated burst in which it was impossible to tell the difference between reality and 'virtuality' and the point of any of it was never really revealed. I put down the book after my marathon skimming session (mostly I skimmed over anything that seemed like it might actually give me nightmares) and I felt like my brain had been rewired.

This book is definitely something that 12 years ago one of my best friends would have handed me and told me it would CHANGE MY LIFE. And then I would have read it savoring every word but not understanding anything. I would have given it back to him the next day with minuscule detail memorized to claim as favorite parts, but in reality I would never want to touch it again.

So what I'm saying here is that there are probably teenagers who would be all about the matrix style challenges and paranoia this book throws at them. But, while the writing is tinged with humor the ever shifting character and the lack of any true thread to follow (yes you are given clues to why all of this is going on, but the are never coherent enough, for instance: there are two versions we see of the best friend and I'm still not sure which one was the true, if either was.) The constant chapter shifting from character to character makes the book go quickly, and adds to the confusion. It also inhibits any real character development beyond "Kenny is nice" and "Sophie is scary." The best scenes are the ones were the brother and sister interact with each other and you actually feel calm for a second. Then it all starts up again.

The book is set to come out 8/1/09. So far the cover art for it is impressive, a comic style drawing of Sophie, the main character, making it seem like an enticing read. I'll ask the opinions of my teens before I buy it for my library though.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Horton hears a wha?

Honestly I went into this movie thinking it would be mediocre at best. I wasn't super impressed with the live action Grinch. So Jim Carrey and Seuss seemed like a bad mix to me. But there is this tiny...thing, named Katie (who looks somewhat like Cleocatra if Cleocatra were yellow and had hooves.) She is quite possibly deserving of some sort of spinoff. The cuteness!
Don't believe me, check out one of the best moments in the film:

But don't be fooled, that wasn't the only good moment in the movie. Overall I really thought it was a bit too long to drag out a Seuss book. It also went a bit too heavy handed with a moral lesson that Seuss more gently tapped you on the shoulder with originally. But, it was ADORABLE. Filled with cuteness and funny unexpected moments. I don't usually do much movie reviewing here, but I've been slowing down on reading and haven't finished a whole book since New Years (I blame my year of dangeresque reading commitment. Reading dangeresquely is HARD you guys.) So it is a nice break for me to talk about a light fluffy movie instead of the mountain of books I haven't gotten to yet.

Monday, January 5, 2009

You can all return from the edge of your seats.

So I decided that what this blog, and I, could use is a little reading challenge to spice things up. I already read about a book a week on average so I decided to skip the 52 books in a year challenge and to focus on something a little more sexy...a little more DANGERESQUE.
So I decided to try the year of reading dangerously challenge. The basic tenet of the challenge goes like this:
Your job: Read 12 books you deem "dangerous." between January 1st and December 31st 2009. They may be banned or challenged books, new-to-you genres, books that seem to inhabit a permanent space on your stacks, or authors you're afraid of. The possibilities are endless! If it's dangerous to you, it's challenge-worthy to us!

Of course, since I'm already in a genre study group that reads a book from a different genre every other month this challenge can have those proverbial two birds killed with just one stone (my next genre study group is focused on historical novels,a category I shy away from anymore.) I created a special Goodread's bookshelf to help myself with the challenge. The first book for me is the Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. Historical narrative non-fiction puts me to sleep like nobody's business. Which is why I'm reading it right before I pass out for the night. So far though it is actually going along at a fairly nice clip, and I'm interested in the anecdotes. I'm not enthralled with the large blocks of quotes on every page from original source texts. It feels like cheating. Still, it was a gutsy choice for me. The other choices I've made so far are books that I've consistantely skipped over when trying to find new reading materials, or they came from abanned/challenged ALA booklist. Anyway, check back to see how it goes. Will I finish the challenge? Will I flake? Will I even remember I started this challenge by this time next year? Will I find 3-4 more books I'm afraid of?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome to the rest of your year.

I have mixed feelings about the new year. I think people (including me!) take it as a time to purge, a time to reflect, and a time to start over. Which is admirable, but how many of us do this year after year and nothing ever really changes? By February we've gained all the weight back, stopped whatever good habits we started, and go back to our old bad ones. I guess I also believe change happens anytime (and over time) and also change happens anywhere with any sort of catalyst. But, if you do start something new, or quit something old, or otherwise stick to whatever it is you want to accomplish in the next year, I wish you all the best. In my own reflection over the past year I've realized that 2008 was a year of MASSIVE life changes for me. Most good, some bad, all for the permanent. I found some new things I love though, and this post, though I said it would be the good bad and really just going to be another "best of." Only, I'm not just sticking to books. I'm talking about all my favorites!

Best Book: Terry Pratchett "Nation." I've talked about it before, and I can reiterate. I love this book. I love Terry Pratchett. I wish I'd been reading his work so long ago. But at least I know now.

Best Conspiracy Laden Thriller written by a prominent blogger: Cory Doctrow "Little Brother"

Best Audiobook: Technically it came out in 2007, but I heard it in 2008: Jay Asher's "13 Reasons Why."

TV's best of the best: Pushing Daisies. Oh, I am sad to see you go. Damn you network executives!

Best Twitterer: Tranquil Mammoth. If he is who he claims, then holy crap, TM, you are a funny man, etc. If he isn't, well, I'm still entertained, and that counts for something.

Most addictive blog: I seriously can not go a day without checking "Cake Wrecks." I can't bake for the life of me. Cake decorating is completely beyond my scope of skillz I could acquire in this lifetime.

Webcomic I still read compulsively after all these years: Questionable Content

Best Radio station: 93.1 XRT...Thanks to my fab hairstylist Whitney for turning me on to the greatness that is a radio station that in one car trip played good ole radio friendly Bowie (Space Oddity) and the nigh miraculous old Cure (Jumping Someone Else's Train.)

Store that I want to buy all my clothes from for 2009: ModCloth. I already rarely wear pants, and now I'm thinking about switching directly to the adorable dresses found at this store.

New Favorite Thing: TV show marathons on USA, TBS, and TNT(they know drama.) Over the past few weeks I've caught up on all the back episodes of "House" and "Bones" in just a couple of days. Deeeelicous!

Old Favorite thing I still love: The holidays and xmas music. I'm sad they are over and am not looking forward to the next two months of winter without the cosmetic benefit of greenery, whimsy, and twinkling lights.

Us, in front of our tree, outshined by the lights. Here's hoping everyone else gets to enjoy their favorite things over the next twelve months.